"The Face of the Enemy"
“Down! Down! Down!” the troop commander yelled and everyone flattened on the floor.
One of Cardassian soldiers was sure that some of stretched bodies were lifeless the moment they hit the cold floor of the building. He was lucky, the enemy phaser fire reached only his right shoulder...if that could be called ‘lucky.’ The armour took most of the impact, but the blow still penetrated it and sent a shot of pain through his arm and chest. He gasped, trying to ignore the pain, and started to crawl toward crates that were stuck in the room to hide behind them.
He looked back at the door through which they had charged. Where were the Jem’Hadar? Weren’t they supposed to cover the Cardassian team?
He heard the familiar sound of Cardassian weapons and realised that the other soldiers—those that were still alive—opened fire at the Feds. He knelt behind his crate, making sure his head didn’t stuck above it and slowly leaned to its edge to take a look at enemy positions. He couldn’t see the people, but he could see where the phaser beams were coming from. He grabbed his own disruptor and started to shoot.
He noticed the air shimmer and the Jem’Hadar team unshrouded just behind the enemy lines. The shouts of people stabbed in their backs with kar’takins sent shivers down the Cardassian soldier’s own back. But the enemy had a backup and soon the Jem’Hadar were caught between two teams with nowhere to run. Some of them shrouded but the Feds started to shoot blindly; with their own people near the floor they could be certain no one would be caught in friendly fire. The Cardassians weren’t so stupid to get up either.
He knew a few Jem’Hadar managed to escape and he knew they would regroup. Would they return to help the Cardassian troop? He doubted that. The Jem’Hadar weren’t exactly known for their team work, they would stab one of their own in the back if it would assure a victory.
The Cardassians were outnumbered now. With no help from their ‘allies’ all they could do was to resist as long as possible and take as many enemies to hell with them as possible.
He heard orders that the Federation commander gave his team: he told them to split up. The Cardassian soldier looked at the door through which they had come. Was there any chance to withdraw and regroup? He looked around, trying to locate their commander. He knew the garesh was in front of him, behind three huge crates stacked one on another. All he saw was a leg in pool of blood.
Cut the head off and the whole body falls apart.
“Withdraw!” he yelled. “Back! Back!” He heard some commotion, so he knew he wasn’t the only one still alive. “Cover fire!” he shouted and turned back to shoot at the enemy, running backwards. The Feds hid behind the crates but kept blindly shooting in the general direction of the Cardassian troop. Two more comrades fell. He hated leaving people behind, even dead people, but he had no choice.
As soon as they were safe behind walls of the other room, the enemy left their sheltered positions and advanced forward, following the Cardassians. He knew they didn’t have much time.
“Move to that room there,” another garesh pointed to a room on the right. “We need to join the Jem’Hadar, we’re doomed if we stay alone.”
The small team jogged to the other room only to be met by enemy fire.
He got shot in the leg and fell on his back; his rucksack absorbed most of the hit. When the pain passed he tried to ascertain his condition. Even with his limited medical training he could tell that the wound was bad but not bad enough to immobilise him. It would hurt but he was still able to walk.
He heard steps, however to his relief they were fading, not nearing. He sat, pulling his face and instinctively grabbing his leg near the injury. He could feel his pant soaking with blood.
Shooting and shouts somewhere, nearby. He thought he recognised Jem’Hadar weapon but wasn’t sure any more. Soon it was quiet.
Silence. Was it over or was it just calm before the storm?
He realised he was the only Cardassian in the room that was still alive. All his comrades have fallen. It shot a pang of rage through his heart! Rage and sadness.
It was not the time to mourn the fallen, though. He got up and, ignoring the pain in his shoulder and his leg, slowly, trying not to make any sounds, headed for the room that witnessed the last skirmish. It was empty. There were bodies on the floor, Federation golden uniforms and grey Jem’Hadar.
“There,” one of the Jem’Hadar was still alive; he was pointing to his left.
“They went there?” the Cardassian asked him. The Dominion soldier confirmed. The Cardassian looked toward the shown direction.
“Victory is—” the Jem’Hadar started but didn’t finish. The Cardassian glanced at him—the soldier was dead.
He had to find them and finish them. Before they finished him.
The rucksack with medical equipment felt heavy; it pulled his wounded shoulder and caused more pain but he didn’t want to leave it behind. It could come handy at some point. Besides, leaving resources behind would be unimaginable for a Cardassian. He’d never do that!
He heard steps somewhere in front of him, so he stopped and listened trying to pinpoint the location. He then followed the sound, trying to make as little noise as possible. They were stupid enough to give away their position but he was no fool. He was a hunter and it was hunting time.
For a short moment he forgot about the pain and concentrated on his stealth approach and his target. However, he soon started to feel dizzy and completely soaked pant of his trousers was enough to tell him why—he was still losing blood. He stopped and retrieved a few items from his rucksack. He tended to his wound, trying not to scream in pain when pressing the burnt skin, injected himself with a painkiller that did not seem to work and then resumed his hunt; he feared he’d lost his target.
But the Federation soldiers seemed to be sure they had killed all the Dominion forces, as they didn’t even try to be quiet. The rumble he heard was everything but a quiet withdraw. His first instinct was to run there but his leg reminded him brutally that it wouldn’t be a good idea.
The pain in his chest intensified.
There, in the adjacent room, they were there, he could clearly hear them. Someone dropped something big and heavy and it made a muffled thud.
He entered the room quietly. He knew they had to be close, very close. His ears were ready for the faintest sound...but what they heard was not faint. It was heavy, hoarse breathing. He crouched and listened. The sound didn’t appear to be moving, so it wasn’t a problem to determine where it was coming from. After a short while the sound became louder. He kept listening.
His own pain sharpened again. Obviously the crouching position was not making it easier for his body. In spite of himself he groaned and had to shift his right leg a bit, causing a quiet rustle. The heavy breathing from the other end of the room stopped. Whoever was there, they heard him. He chastised himself for his recklessness and waited in tension—would they attack now that they knew where he was, or wouldn’t they? However, no other sound followed. They waited too. A moment later the moaning and hoarse breathing resumed. Whoever was there, it was clear that he was wounded.
He decided to move on. Either there was one Fed and he would kill him, or there were many and they would kill him, but it had to happen. He couldn’t stay here forever.
He tried to be as quiet as possible, but there was nothing he could do about his armour’s squeaking. Was it loud enough for the Feds to hear him? Was it enough to target him and shoot?
He tripped. He managed to regain his balance but the noise gave his position away. Even a half-deaf man would hear that! Idiot! But worse than the noise was the pain; not only the one in his leg, it shot up right to his chest and shoulder. He knelt and waited. He knew they would come. He knew it would take a long moment before he could force his battered body to compose itself, suppress the pain and go on moving. He didn’t even try to muffle his filled with pain breathing. He knew he would die here.
But no one came. Only the breathing stopped and then resumed, joining his own. A thought appeared in his mind, a shy one, a hopeful one. He forced his legs to carry his weight and move toward the breathing. It didn’t stop this time, although he didn’t even try to be quiet; his approach had to be obvious.
As he expected—there was one man there only and he was wounded too. The man, a Terran, looked at him; he was not surprised at all, he knew a Cardassian was coming. Maybe he even expected a troop. The Cardassian kicked the Terran’s weapon away, waking a sharp pain in his leg, and stood over the man that lay on the floor.
“Where are the others?” he barked, raising his riffle with his left hand and pointing it at the Terran’s head.
The Terran didn’t reply. He was breathing through opened mouth and looking at his enemy. The Cardassian had to admit that, in spite of fear in the man’s eyes, he was looking him right in the face, not at the business end of his barrel.
“Where are the others?” he asked again.
Again, there was no reply.
Would the others leave their wounded man here? Would they just leave him, knowing that Cardassians were still around?
The Terran was bleeding; his hands on his abdomen, clutching a dark red patch on his uniform. A Jem’Hadar weapon effect.
The Cardassian fought the feeling of dizziness, caused by his own loss of blood and gripped his riffle tighter, preparing to fire. He looked in the Terran’s face; the man was afraid but he seemed to be prepared to die. The fear in his eyes was mixed with resignation and resistance. He looked almost as saying ‘do it and be done with it.’ A grey finger touched the smooth surface of the trigger and pressed slightly—enough to feel the resistance of the device but not enough to defeat it and actually fire. He stood there, frozen, looking his victim-to-be in the eye, listening to their breathing that was filled with pain, wondering in the name of what he was going to take a life now. Does the Terran have a family? Does his wife wait for him at home? Are his children old enough to remember their daddy? His eyes were grey-blue and his hair was dark brown. He had a rank of lieutenant. He looked so young without ridges! What was his name?
He threw the riffle away, took his rucksack off and knelt next to the surprised man. He retrieved a few things and leaned over the wound.
“Don’t bother, the bleeding cannot be stopped,” the Terran said.
The Cardassian looked at him. “I’ll give you painkillers. If you have to die, at least you won’t suffer.”
“Why just not shoot me?”
The Cardassian didn’t reply at first. He took a hypospray and put it to the Terran’s neck. “I can’t do it,” he said eventually in a low voice. “I just can’t.”
The Terran’s face lost its expression that had been filled with pain. He observed the Cardassian who sat next to him and took care of his own leg wound. They did not speak again, each lost in his own thoughts.
The Terran died an hour later. The Cardassian found a huge sheet of fabric and covered his body.
“No alien should see your remains,” he whispered.
Then he set his wristcomm to an automatic distress signal, not really believing anyone would pick it up, and waited for his own end.
He was rescued by a Jem’Hadar patrol ship twelve hours later.